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Old 02-16-2011, 02:03 PM   #1
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Question newbie wanting easy windows workgroup file share / master browser

Need to get a server to replace aging windows workstation file-share box.

What server OS is best bet for someone new to Linux (if any!)?
Does Calculate Directory Server support MS workgroup (docs say 'designed to be windows domain manager')?
Perhaps Ubuntu, with paid support , would be a better bet?

What of the suggestions of TheRegister:

ClearOS and SME Server - any votes for these to support an MS workgroup?

And, should 2 sites of 17 laptop users (total), mostly split equally between sites, remain in 2 workgroups, or are there neat ways, on minimal bandwidth, to enable them to join a domain depending upon which site they are visiting?
Old 02-16-2011, 07:21 PM   #2
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Are you currently using a domain or a workgroup?

Just about any Linux distro could be a file server in a Windows workgroup, once as Samba is properly configured. Over the years I've used Debian, Slackware, Ubuntu, and CentOS. I would tend to recommend CentOS for business use.

Using Linux in a Windows-style domain is not something I'm familiar with. The Windows domain model provides a lot of security features, mostly as regards active directory and user login permissions, and attendant complexity. If you aren't using a domain architecture now, trying to learn it while also setting up a Linux box might not be the best strategy.

Here's the best reference for Samba that I've found; it's what helped me get my little home network going. It's several years old but should still work.
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Old 02-17-2011, 05:42 AM   #3
Registered: Oct 2003
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Distribution: debian lenny x64
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i have successfully installed a few small offices with Zentyal.
which provides all office functions that you are looking for as well as many more.

hope this is what you need. if you need further assistance, please let us know.

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Old 02-17-2011, 07:02 AM   #4
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RAID on basic workgroup server

Domain or workgroup - I think you are right, the starting point is to provide a file server for a workgroup. I seem to remember using Freesco to provide this on dial up years ago, and it worked fine pre-win7, maybe still today.
I am a little scared of the big distro, in at the deep end, approach, that said, I am leaning towards Ubuntu server due to the paid support available, perhaps in year 1 whilst I am learning.

Zentyal (based on ubuntu) versus CentOS versus SME Server versus Calculate Linux Server...

I read that Zentyal lacks RAID out of the box, where SME Server will automatically use 2 disks to provide a RAID1, the latter sounding a good idea. But in truth, all this network needs is a master browser to keep the win clients happy...

However, I'd like to run before I can walk, hence my design thought is - 1. secure base OS, 2. virtualised Win7 client (laptop logmein backup host), 3. virtualised ExentaStor dedup backup, all on a suitably powerful server... the dedup backup replicated to a QNAP for ease of remote encrypted replication to remote site ... and I am probably missing another virtualised scenario worth using ... so starting out on the right foot is sound in principle.

I read here that "which distro?" gets asked a lot, but I guess often by newbies not wanting to dip their toes in cold water infested with sharks, and instead first find that shallow sheltered bay; a better place to learn to swim.
Ideally I need find a spare pentium machine and set up a starter workgroup server, experiment with permission shares, but keep business data on a QNAP ... I have much to learn.

Thanks for the supportive virtual hand on my shoulder.
Old 02-17-2011, 08:06 AM   #5
Registered: Oct 2003
Location: UK
Distribution: debian lenny x64
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Zentyal on RAID ??


i had mine running on 6 disks.

however, i have now moved to a different approach;

zentyal runs on a VM and it mounts the necessary shares using NFS
thus the only thing I need to back up o Zentyal is the configuration and the files are kept (safely) on a file server (maybe QNAP) although i use another debian server with 6 disks running in RAID.

does it help?

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Old 02-18-2011, 03:56 AM   #6
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Thanks - a good update.

The final question then...
... in spite of being a newbie, what thoughts for a good O/S to host the VMs?

I was reading lots of (forgive me) FreeBSD last night, and, always remembering that this is not planned to be anything so complex as a firewall/gateway, it sounded approachable - very good guide to just about everything right from the homepage.

Ubuntu has support offering... I guesss, even on a diet of some advice, and lots of reading, I am feeling less hesitant about taking the plunge.
Old 02-18-2011, 04:49 AM   #7
Registered: Oct 2003
Location: UK
Distribution: debian lenny x64
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hey we all started at the beginning.

as an OS linux is quite robust and flexible - and because of those attributes it is also very complex.

but assuming that you have the aptitude for all things related to computer - you will understand it.

since i am in between works, and therefore plenty of time.
could you tell what you want to achieve and i see if i can come up with an alternative for you?
Old 02-18-2011, 07:57 AM   #8
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Business across 2 main sites + admin office, growing slowly from 18 toward 25 staff in next 3 years. All laptop users. some number may find themselves at either of the 2 sites. Rarely more than 12 on one site, plus iphones, etc. Mixed XP / Win7 network.

I want to deliver a tidy solution in terms of ongoing cost and stability, stay open source if easy and possible.
Current plan: use hosted Zimbra as email/calendaring platform with, if they choose, Outlook via MAPI connector - the client software provides stability for huge datasets, replacing the native Outlook PST files whilst allowing offline access for individuals laptops.
Add CRM to Zimbra via a zimlet, though lack of joined up thinking by business is making strategic decisions tricky.

Possibly add a gmail component for further outsourced resilience / searchable, restorable, archiving (cheaper than a Zimbra option, but not so neat day to day where people detest the gmail interface) - could be good with outlook add-in to store copy of ALL outgoing and incoming email for compliance and for safe problem resolution if problems arise...

Yet I want to Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) - so, if a workgroup instead of a domain can be used whilst providing secure file shares, great!
Some would say this is madness, but it is a kind of simple madness allowing for the fact that laptops with multiple 3rd party 3D software and daft users need a lot of support / hands on in any case.

Stable/Secure server ... file sharing / authorisation / future requirements ...or just for good VM platform
O/S VM for file sharing / managing users / etc(?)
Windows7 VM - logmein backup is neat solution (might also use syncrify) to backup on mobile Windows machines requiring windows host = 1 VM at each site + 1 at this 3rd party! ought to be server OS, but think win7 will cope.
Dedup O/S - e.g. NexentaStor or ...? for dedup of data during replication, and prior to remote sync to 2nd site / 3rd party site.

QNAP NAS units for remote sync between sites, nice and easy.
Maybe add a hardware firewall - avoid complex linux tasks for now - to supplement or replace draytek router

Printers are all network connected.
Final issues:
1. lack of effective cooling at either client site, okay but not good
2. cost effective broadband connectivity - some would say cheap! ADSL or 2x ADSL lines load balanced by Draytek. (want to add 3G modem to avoid downtime, maybe I will since boss stated things need to be done properly... though never a budget mentioned!)

Hardware for the server is also tricky: open/freeBSD + NexentaStor (solaris like) wants care in choice of server. I am thinking that a Dell PowerEdge T310 or T610 +8-16GB memory, maybe okay if suitable RAID card is selected and I don't imagine the remote management card will work for sure! What do you think?
Any advice appreciated.

Last edited by oxfordite; 02-18-2011 at 08:04 AM. Reason: to mention hardware issue for server
Old 02-21-2011, 05:00 AM   #9
Registered: Oct 2003
Location: UK
Distribution: debian lenny x64
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Talking Zentyal option


I can only testify for the stuff that I have used.
Since I have my core skills in other areas then Linux infrastructure I have researched and decide to use Zentyal.
Therefore, all the suggestions I can provide you here are based on my experience and understanding of this suite.
Zentyal essentially wraps all sorts of Linux services under a nice web-front end that facilitates the administration of these services ( These are still running on Linux, thus you are able to manually amend these configuration if you wish.

About your Setup:

Enabling site-to-site connectivity and fault tolerance
since you have two sites to work with; you can have two Zentyal installation working as GATWAYS (one in each site), and set a VPN between them, thus allowing for traffic between office to be exchanged securely (

These gateways can support connection redundancy to ensure 100% up-time. In this case you can have two or more broadbands/mobile connections. This will not only support uninterrupted connectivity but also increased throughput (

the Zentyal gateways come with a firewall module which is fantastic.
As a bonus you can also use proxy (transparent) to speed up and filter web access, with exception to HTTPS. Rules can be create for group or individual users. (
And it also have Intrusion detection system (

WWW Server
As much as I Trust Zentyal, I always prefer to use an installation with simple Ubuntu Server LTS.
And that is it. Just create a DMZ with the Firewall/Gateway above and keep it separated from your internal network.

You can continue hosting your email externally, it might a way of keeping it safe in a way.
Since you will have two sites with fault tolerance connections to the web, you might consider hosting your emails with zentyal (I have been using Zentyal for the past 3.5 years); but this is only an option if you have two servers ensuring 100% uptime. They also support sieve rules.

I am not sure Zimlet alone is a CRM solution there are open-source ones; I have a friend who uses TigerV
but really this is more of a business decision then technical. You would need to do an assessment to discovered what is currently needed and will be needed in the medium term (3-5 yrs). Since it is such a specialist area you might to consider buying it with support.

Domain Controller & User administration
Zentyal used LDAP to create user accounts in the PDC (primary domain controller.
With 2 sites you can have a PRIMARY and SLAVE domain controllers that synchronised automagically for you (

file-sharing uses Samba, which also can provide printing services to windows clients. With Windows clients correctly setup with Zentyal, their home partitions are mounted from the Zentyal server on to H: .

with users making use of Zentyal storage you then backup all data securely and encrypted with duplicity (, all under Zentyal web-interface.

Support on-ongoing
Zentayl provides the above solution as it is as an open-community option as well as a commercially supported solution.
In this way you can purchase their support while you get your self acquainted with Linux while supporting their development.
As a commercial customer, you cal also use their remote monitoring system which enables you to check on all your servers state.

Things that you need to check
this is the stuff that I am not quite sure about your setup or how Zentyal will fit into it.
clients Window 7, please check with Zentyal if they are already supporting win7 to the extent you need (eg: remote users road-warrior scenario)
use x32 bit on the email server as there is a problem with Virus Scanning on the x64 bit of Ubuntu Server
need to check how access to Samba/Email Server can be maintained, if connection to main site fails

Suggestions for your installation
These are the Zentyal entities that you might need in each site.

site A
1 Gateway
1 Master LDAP
1 Samba/Email Server
1 Storage Server for holding backups

connected to 2 different broadband providers that do not use the same infrastructure (some use BT's); thus you might need to look for BT and Virgin as they have different physical infrastructure.
2 fast NIC access for internal network
using VPN setup to allow connectivity between sites

Master LDAP
holds the LDAP database ONLY does not need much storage but needs to be reliable

Samba/Email Sever
requires large storage and fast NIC access

1 Storage Server for holding backups
requires large disk storage to accommodate backup of Samba/Email Server

site B
1 Gateway
1 Slave LDAP
1 Slave Samba/Email

same as above
Slave LDAP
using VPN connection in gateway, connects to Master LDAP and copy users' details

Slave Samba/Email
using VPN connection in gateway, syncs with Master Samba/Email

Hope the above serves as a starting point of how to use Zentyal as a solution to your needs.
You can clarify further, by posting in their forums or dropping an email to them directly.

If I can help further them, please let me know.

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